This is an op-ed piece I wrote last September about what was wrong with the Democratic party. I posted it for a reference from another thread about Howard Dean as new DNC chairman. The points are still true even if it sounds dated.
Honesty, leadership, and the ability to handle a crisis; three very important qualities for a president, yet the current Democratic Party leadership has none of these. Well its time to put them all in the ground. R.I.P. DNC, you won?t ever get another guy in the White House with the group that makes up your core. The last time all three of these qualities were found in the same Democratic president was in 1952 and his name was Harry Truman, who is probably turning over in his grave at this very moment thinking about what his party has become. But the party of Truman doesn?t have to die, however it definitely has to change. An examination of what went wrong could be a good place to start.
Working forward from Truman we find Kennedy, a man who at least possessed two of the three qualities that are definitely needed for the job of Commander in Chief. Leadership, lots of it, and his ability to handle a crisis was one in a million. Nuclear missiles were steaming their way to Cuba and he still had the country convinced they were living in Camelot. Now that is some serious crisis handling. Unfortunately honesty and even worse loyalty were in short supply. The threesomes and Marilyn were nice touches but he turned on the people who got him elected by unleashing his brother Bobby on the Chicago Italians. Bad form, they even helped by getting dead people to vote and he put them in jail.
The last socialist president, LBJ, certainly made a mark. Despite the fact that we were a country founded on Adam Smith and not Karl Marx, he forged ahead with his Great Society programs while micro-managing a war 12,000 miles away. He provided wonderful leadership, and his devotion to the founding father?s economic policies was simply amazing, or maybe it wasn?t. However, even though he did saddle us with huge entitlement debt problems, in doing so he provided the current party with their only base of core voters with the quid pro quo notion of buying votes through government handouts.
Jimmy Carter was possibly the most honest man ever to live in the White House. He was honest to a fault, however the crisis handling part could have used some work. Retreating to the Rose Garden during the Iran Hostage Crisis like a child hiding under the bed from the monsters in his room might not have been the best idea. He was a very decent and good man who just had leadership difficulties at the federal level.
Mondale? What did he win, one state? Wow, and Dukakis, he couldn?t even tell Susan Estrich ?NO? when she told him to get in that tank. At least he would have submitted willingly to the Democratically controlled congress when they threatened to shut down the government if he didn?t raise taxes.
And now to Bill Clinton or Slick Willie as some know him for his ability to handle a crisis. Unfortunately every crisis he had to handle was of his own making. We can also say he was possibly truthfully challenged. The voters obviously recognized and excused his handicap but were so afraid of what he might do, they voted out all his buddies in Congress. His true legacy is that he came into office holding a majority of the statehouses and both houses of congress. He left with Republican majorities in each of those bodies, but at least he took some of the White House furniture with him as a parting gift. The White House is not a Howard Johnson?s and the robes might be free but the furniture isn?t.
Finally we get to Al Gore and his flop sweat. Guess he heard that antiperspirant could pose environmental hazards and so he chose not to use it. His commitment to the environment was admirable but might have been a little mistimed. It?s simply not a good look. Also, how many times were they supposed to recount the votes? I know, until he got the result he wanted. But the sheer hypocrisy of Gore calling the election ?stolen? boggles my mind. The recounts had to stop at some point and it was the same Supreme Court that stopped the recounts that gave the Democrats their one single collective issue, abortion. Roe v. Wade, good; Florida recount, bad. The whole party sounded like those sheep in Orwell?s book.
So we come to 2004, George W. Bush is leading comfortably in the polls, and even fellow Democrats are telling John Kerry to get off that stupid windsurfer. And what are the new JFK?s qualifications. First we can look at the honesty question. ?I voted for the 87 billion right before I voted against it.? Oops he?s a liar, or truthfully challenged like BC because it?s impossible to vote for the same thing twice and in opposite ways. But unlike Slick Willie he doesn?t have the ability to look cute and discuss the meaning of the word ?is?. Or possibly he is just very, very confused. Second, on the leadership question, hmm, 20 years in Congress and not one piece of meaningful legislation with his name on it. So what was he leading, the gentleman caller parade to rich Republican?s widow?s houses?
Lastly, on his ability to handle a crisis, which makes even Michael Moore laugh at him and call him a terrible candidate. Some Vietnam veterans were upset with his testimony when he got back from the war. First he ignored them and hoped they would just go away. Then he started telling Bush to make them stop the attacks, proving even John Kerry needs the help of George Bush in a crisis. By the way, Bush could not ask them to stop without violating the same laws that set up the 527s in the first place. That didn?t work so he turned to his Republican friends from the Senate who told him that he did sort of bring up the issue. And finally the last ditch effort of the undelivered letter to Bush at his ranch in Crawford. Now the Swift Vets are Americans who might have only wanted an apology, but John Forbes Kerry cried to everyone he knew about it and then went on vacation to the Grand Canyon. Americans want a strong leader who can handle a crisis. Real terrorists want to kill us; these Vets only wanted an apology. After a real crisis we might find Kerry curled up in the fetal position asking Teresa to make the mean men go away.
The American people want a leader who actually does things and has ideas. Ronald Reagan instantly comes to mind. There is a reason that so many Democrats converted to Republicans during his years. Geraldo Rivera was once asked if Bill Clinton ever made him proud to be an American. He had to stop and think of a time and it took him a while. Simply writing Reagan?s name makes me proud. He took two seemingly unsolvable problems, stagflation, which was the combination of high unemployment and high inflation, and the Communist threat of global nuclear war, and solved both. His solutions were considered radical at the time. Attack the economic problems from the supply side by eliminating punitive tax rates, which would stimulate new investment, give people more money to spend, and create new jobs to produce all the new products that were being bought by the people who now had all this new disposable income. Critics called it ?trickle down? economics, but no one calls it that today. Then the Communist threat of global nuclear war was solved in much the same way. Until Reagan, the Soviets had been considered evil people who we hated but had to be nice to. He saw the Soviets as just people who happened to live in an evil empire. He stopped being nice to them with the same appeasement policies Chamberlain had used with Hitler. However, he extended the hand of friendship to Mr. Gorbachev while telling him sternly to ?tear down this wall.? Then several years later we all saw something that seemed impossible only a few years earlier as the Berlin residents literally ?tore down that wall,? and Gorbachev, his supposed enemy, spoke of his longtime friend at his funeral earlier this year. That is a great man, that is a leader, that is a real legacy, and that is something we can all be proud of when we call ourselves Americans.
So what to do first. Kerry is no Reagan, not even a Clinton or Gore, and this election is lost. The smear and hate campaigns of the Clinton years only worked because he came across as a halfway likable Bubba figure. They won?t work with Kerry, so just give up on 2004, its not going to happen; New Jersey is now a swing state. Second, realize that politics is about leadership and service to your country. Politics should not be about power and finding a cushy job to hold because making speeches is more fun than working in an office. Start supporting candidates who want to serve, not just win and then hang out, honest leaders with integrity. Kennedy gave the impression that honesty didn?t matter. LBJ gave the impression that votes could be bought through government handouts, and Carter gave the impression that ineffectuality can be made into an art form. Finally, Clinton showed that nothing really matters but winning then governing by opinion polls so you can win again. So forget these lessons from the past and run someone who actually stands for something. Right now Joe Lieberman is the first Democrat who comes to mind. He?s the Democratic equivalent of John McCain, every Republican?s favorite and most respected Democrat. He possesses honesty, integrity, and loves the American people and can?t conceive of hating them.
Now, it has been shown how the Socialist policies of LBJ have not only failed but have made things worse for the people they were supposed to help. So stop promising to give away money, disguised as caring, just to buy votes. Americans as a whole have a wonderful work ethic. They believe they don?t really need special advantages to compete with other countries for jobs, and they don?t want to be told that they do. It?s insulting to people so stop it. Most Americans still believe they live in the best country in the world and hating that country offends people and relying on, and actually hoping for, bad conditions to win elections personally makes me sick.
Finally, a little patience and common sense need to be brought into things. From Reagan?s election in 1980 it took twenty years for the Democratic Party to totally lose every branch of government. This will take time, so be patient. Reagan worked with a lot of Democrats to get his policies to work and Democrats will have to work with a lot of Republicans. Just like the Soviet people were not evil, neither are Republicans so when things come up like a terrorist attack or the collapse of a tech bubble, which had made millionaires out of secretaries, don?t start screaming about a job deficit. Things happen and it?s more important to use rational thinking and common sense to work together for solutions than to simply criticize the other side. Only by doing these things do I see any way for the Democratic Party to avoid a quick change to third party status and only in this way will they be able to bring back the party of Truman, FDR, even Kennedy, and Carter. It was once a proud party; let it be one again.